Ten years into a well-paying, secure job as a Web video engineer at Ernst & Young, Khoa Le knew it would be easy to “call it a day there.”
He also knew it wasn't him.
“I've been a creative guy since a young age,” Le said.
Turns out he's an entrepreneur, too.
Le, who graduated from Rutgers University with a music degree, had been scratching his creative itch by doing film and music-related side projects. He did so many, in fact, that he founded KVibe Productions in 2005.
But the Thailand-born, Jersey City-raised entrepreneur wasn't satisfied with positioning his creative work as a glorified hobby, so he took the leap of faith and left Ernst & Young in March 2013.
KVibe began producing Web-ready multimedia and commercials for corporate clients on a contract basis. Ernst & Young became his first client — but hardly the only one.
Le, 34, increased KVibe's earnings of $30,000 in 2012 to $500,000 the following year.
He's now looking to grow his business, too. In the next two years, Le wants to trade in his 3,000-square-foot space in Jersey City for a 30,000-square-foot space that can be used as a film set or sound stage.
Le got a start in the movie business earlier this year when he flew to Florida to shoot “Walt Before Mickey,” a Walt Disney biopic.
“I used my role as director to my advantage and got the company involved,” he said. “I made a negotiated deal to get (KVibe) in on the post-production side (doing coloring, editing, CGI and sound design).
“So now we have that credibility. We open ourselves up to a whole new batch of services; we might get hired for the sound design on one film, and the CGI on another.”
Le said he knows KVibe has to contend with a surplus of competitors within the larger New York region that do some of the same things: feature and short film directing, product commercials, corporate videos and event filming. He said he's not worried.
His competitors? “They're filmmakers, so they start production companies to just focus solely on films,” he said. “That's why I don't see us so much as competitors, because we want to do so much more.”
He's always on the lookout.
Le identified a need for higher-quality wedding photography locally, so in 2010 he extended KVibe's reach to a sister branch, Live Picture Studios. The company now photographs more than 80 weddings annually.
He also recently started offering Web design and search engine optimization (SEO) services through KVibe. This was a product of his clients' uncertainty about how to market and distribute the videos that KVibe was doing.
Further out? No less than “becoming the next Universal Studios” could be expected from this man of sky-high aspirations.
“We want to be in a place where we're funding our own films, our own TV shows, our own distribution deals, partnering with other big studios, acquiring small studios,” he said.
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THE BIZ IN BRIEF
Company: KVibe Productions
Niche: Film, television, commercials, Web development, SEO services and creative counseling
Location: Jersey City
2014 revenue projection: $1.2 million
Employees: Six internal staff, more than 15 contractors
Khoa Le said the key to a young company’s growth is making the right connections while building the right reputation. The formula is working for him.
During KVibe’s work on “Walt Before Mickey,” Le was able to interact with the film’s producer, Armando Gutierrez, a business partner of the New York Yankees. That turned into an invitation for KVibe to shoot a television pilot based on the team’s minor-league affiliate in Tampa.
Word about KVibe’s involvement in a TV pilot then reached HBO, which is now working out the details for an undisclosed project with KVibe.